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Left to die under siege in Syria

Four years ago, protests against the Syrian government, and the subsequent violent crackdown, sparked a bitter and relentless armed conflict which is still raging today with no sign of an end in sight.

Besieged by the Syrian government and armed groups, ordinary Syrian people are deliberately starved of both food and medicine. On top of this, they live under constant threat of aerial strikes and shelling.

‘Sometimes I hear children, women and men shouting under the rubble. When the shouting for rescue stops, it means we have failed.’

Member of the Civil Defence in Eastern Ghouta

Inside Eastern Ghouta

Use your mouse to navigate the 360 degree image below

Eastern Ghouta is an agricultural and industrial area north-east of the capital, Damascus.

The suburb is home to more than 160,000 people, who have been living – and dying – under a crippling siege by Syrian government forces since 2012.

Ordinary citizens, including the wounded and the sick, aren’t able to leave the area, while limited food, medicine and other basic supplies can enter.

‘I wish I could leave. My family and I have no food, water or electricity. The food aid from local organizations does not last more than a week or two. But even if I managed to bribe the Syrian authorities, the Army of Islam will never allow me to leave.’

Resident of Eastern Ghouta

Parachute bombs

Syrians we’ve spoken to told of us of government fighter jets dropping bombs using parachutes. Because they did not fall as quickly as other bombs, people had a few moments to find shelter, but it was impossible to know where they would hit.

Image: Remnants of a bomb that fell near the Taha mosque on 5 February 2015. Credit: private

These unguided bombs contain around 200kg of high-explosive fuel that explodes when the bomb is still a few metres away from impact.

They project an aerosol cloud that destroys everything within a 25-metre radius, while also killing and injuring people beyond this radius.

‘One of the bombs totally destroyed a residential building and damaged the buildings around it. Residents told me that they had seen a rocket strapped to a parachute but they had not had time to run.’

A student who saw a fighter jet bomb a residential neighbourhood near Taha mosque

Use your mouse to navigate the 360 degree image of the destruction near the Taha mosque

Before and after – the Taha mosque attack

Satellite imagery of the area above shows the radius of destruction of attacks that took place in the Taha mosque area in early 2015.

28 December 2014

2 March 2015 – damaged structures in the same area

War crimes on an epic scale

Starving and indiscriminately bombing civilians are war crimes – not methods of warfare.

Despite a glimmer of hope in 2014 when the UN Security Council demanded an end to all attacks on civilians, we are no closer to relieving Syria’s besieged people.

They face a humanitarian catastrophe – not one caused by an earthquake, volcanic eruption or other natural disaster. It is man-made, and stems directly from the policies of the Syrian government, and to some extent, the actions of armed opposition groups.

The people of Syria are trapped in the middle of these two forces, both have shown callous disregard for human life and international laws.

What needs to happen?

We’re calling on Syrian authorities and armed groups to end deliberate attacks on civilians and their buildings, such as hospitals, schools and homes.

They must also end the use of imprecise explosives, rockets and bombs in populated areas – and lift the sieges on Eastern Ghouta and other residential areas of Syria.